Yes, yes, yes. Ladies and gents, Kim Stone, Angela Marsons’ brilliant fictional Detective, is back and I am a very happy bunny. Intrigued by the local setting of these stories (Midlands born and Dudley educated for my sins) I raced through the first three books in the series and have had a Kim shaped void in my reading list for too long. (Ok, it’s only actually been a couple of months but I am a very needy reader.) I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to write in this review. It should be the easiest thing in the world to write as the quality of the writing speaks for itself. It is in a word, brilliant. And there is the problem because after reading it, I can’t help feeling that nothing I put down will do it justice.
Given a reward for their success on a child abduction case, Kim and her team are sent to Westerley, a new forensic research centre, or ‘body farm’, designed to aid in the study of decomposition upon the human body, and which has been helping the neighbouring police force with a number of cold cases. While on a tour of the facilities they happen upon a minor issue, one which most certainly piques Kim’s interest. They farm seems to have accumulated one more resident than they should have, a young woman who has been badly beaten and suffocated before being left among the other decaying bodies.
On top of this, Kim’s journalistic nemesis, Tracy Frost, calls her with details of a cold case, the body of a man found with his fingers missing. Tracy had vowed to find justice for but had abandoned the case in favour of a much juicier story. The result was that the man was never identified and his killers remained at large. Knowing that Kim was not the kind to be able to resist a puzzle, she passes the case onward, coercing Kim into doing a little digging of her own.
As another woman is found at the site, this time still alive but badly beaten, Kim and the team race to try and identify the killer before more people are hurt. When someone close to the investigating team goes missing, the case steps up a notch, because now, especially for Kim, it is personal.
Throughout the book we are also fed little snippets of memory from a young child who has a difficult relationship with their mother. A young child who has a very big secret.
I love the Kim Stone series. Kim is a great character, strong and single minded and while not completely oblivious to the manner in which her brusque nature may be viewed by others, not entirely caring of it either. And yet the camaraderie with her team is strong, their respect for her clear in the way the way the whole team dynamic is explored. From reliable sidekick Bryant, to impulsive and yet competent Dawson and the tech savvy Stacey, all of them work and add a real value to the story. I really do love the way in which the friendship between Kim and Bryant is written – it always makes me chuckle. But the real star of the show is Kim. We learn more of her past in this story as well as that of Tracy Frost and realise that as with all good ‘frenemies’ they have more in common than they think.
This is a real page turner. I know this phrase gets thrown around a lot but for me it really was the truth. I had to force myself to go to bed last night rather than finish the book (a tough choice, believe me, but one made with the welfare of my fellow road users in mind as I had a 350- mile commute to look forward to.) It is a thriller in every sense of the word, the story draws you in and won’t let you go. I was willing Kim and the team onward, devouring it, engrossed in the action on every page all the way to the dramatic showdown with the killer. It left me with a mix of emotions, like all good books should. Much like Kim I had some empathy for the killers and what had driven them to their actions but not acceptance for their chosen method of retribution.
The writing is slick and fast paced. I love, love, love all the local references (even if they make me feel reaaaalllly old). The dialogue between the characters is sharp and the impact of the different character flaws and the events which have informed them upon the individuals extremely well observed. I had to look over my shoulder a few times just to make sure I wasn’t being watched as I recognised far too much of myself in both Kim and Tracy Frost. Worrying perhaps but that is a sign of good writing as it means they are the most important thing of all – believable characters.
And the best bit – Daniel Bate is back. Yes, him. The dishy Doc from Dundee we met in Silent Scream, the one with the clear chemistry with Kim. It still remains to be seen if anything would ever come from this encounter – Kim remains extremely aloof as you would expect – but you know fans of the series will hope it does one day.
So, as I might have said – loved this and a mahoosive thanks to Angela Marsons for creating one of my fave characters and book series of recent times, and feeding my compulsive reading habit.
It is a happy and sad day for me today. Happy to have been able to read this early and a big thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the opportunity. Sad because it is all over and I have to wait again for the next one . I really must try and practice delayed gratification. I’ve heard self-denial is good for building character but I’m not convinced.
5 Stars – as if it needed to be said!
Play Dead is available on Amazon at the following links: